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The Guilty Bagel

Two psychologists at Iowa State University, Stacey Sentyrz and Brad Bushman, conducted a telling experiment using nothing other than cream cheese and bagels.

bagel and cream cheese

Photo: Wack the Wooley Duck (flickr)

Their job was to taste as much of each of the three kinds of cream cheese as they want, and rate them.

Who says good science needs a multi-million dollar budget and high-tech machinery? Two psychologists at Iowa State University, Stacey Sentyrz and Brad Bushman, conducted a telling experiment using nothing other than cream cheese and bagels.

Sound like an experiment you’d like being a part of? Hold on. In this experiment 320 Iowa State undergraduates were randomly assigned to two groups. The first group entered a room where there were three tubs of cream cheese and some plain bagels. The tubs of cream cheese said “regular,” “light” and “fat-free” on the front in big letters and the students were told that this was a taste-test. Their job was to taste as much of each of the three kinds of cream cheese as they want, and rate them. The second group did the same thing, only for this second group, a large mirror was visible in the room with them.

The catch is, which you have probably assumed by know, it wasn’t really a taste test at all. It was a test to see whether the presence of the mirror had an effect on how much the subjects would eat. The tubs were carefully weighed after each person was finished, and the results compared. Sure enough, people in a room without the mirror ate 50% more of the fatty cream cheese than folks in front of a mirror. That’s a big result. The amount of low-fat and no-fat cream cheese eaten was the same.

Apparently that face in the mirror increases self-awareness, keeping us honest with ourselves. Or, you could say it guilts us into not indulging!

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